Arsenal features prominently in our historic look at The FA
The FA celebrates its 150th annivesary in England on Saturday. Here we look at some of best moments to have happened under the organization´s watch since 11 football clubs met at the Freemason´s Tavern in 1863 to formalize a set of rules for a sport that was rising in popularity across the land.
In the age of professionalism and super fit athletes – yes Cristano we’re talking about you – it seems unlikely that William Foulke´s record will ever be beaten. “Fatty,” as he was affectionately referred to, holds the record for the heaviest goalkeeper, having reached a maximum weight of 363.76 lbs (165 kilos) while playing for Bradford. Foulke’s weight was partly down to his penchant for an ale. Sadly, he died aged just 42 with the death certificate citing “cirrosis” as the major cause of death. Despite the drinking, he was a good goalkeeper in his time and featured in three FA Cup Finals, in 1899, 1901 and 1902. Here is the footage from the 1901 final versus Tottenham – can you guess who he is?
The FA Cup seems a good place to move onto and even holds its own record, the longest running cup competition. But there is a different record that is one of our favourites, again harking back to the “good old days”.
Today, England’s biggest clubs complain about their hectic schedule and the lack of a winter break. But when they have to play just one FA Cup replay, previously there was no limit to the number of replays and that takes us to our next record, in 1971, when Alvechurch and Oxford City met in the fourth qualifying round. A 2-2 draw was followed by a 1-1 draw in the ensuing replay, with that result repeated before 180 minutes of goalless football took place. Finally, in the sixth game, Alvechurch prevailed by a single goal and after 11 hours of football the longest FA Cup tie was finally concluded. Graham Allner played every single minute for Alvechurch while also juggling his full-time job. In the next round they had to play Aldershot just two days after the final replay and, as Allner recalls, “we were on our knees… , we were never going to do anything in that one.” Sure enough, they lost 4-2.
Owing to the rules at the time, the last four of those replays were on neutral grounds, as Alvechurch and Oxford roamed around England. Although that was nothing compared to the record set by Ken Ferris during the 1994/95 season. Ken from Essex watched his first league match in Carlisle over 300 miles away, and over the course of 237 days watched a football match in all 92 football league stadiums in the land. Not only did he become a member of the famed Ninety-two club, he set the world record for the fastest time to visit all English Football League stadiums.
"But what about the 21st century?" I hear you cry. Ok I’m getting there – in the modern era, the pace setters have been Manchester United (above) and Arsenal without a doubt. The former becoming the team with the most wins of the FA Cup in 2004 (11 wins) and earlier this year securing their 20th English top division title, the most of any club in the country. In 2009, they also went on a historic run of 14 consecutive Premier League games without conceding a goal.
Although when it comes to hot streaks, there is no beating Arsene Wenger´s Arsenal. In 2003/04, the side were dubbed the “Invincibles,” becoming the first unbeaten side in a Premier League season and smashing Nottingham Forest´s 28-year-old record by going 49 games unbeaten, the longest unbeaten streak in the English top division. But one record that stands out for Arsenal is that of Valentine's Day 2005, when their 16-man squad announced to play Crystal Palace was the first all-foreign Premier League squad – as we said earlier, things have changed since “Fatty” Foulke´s day. In all, there were 8 different nationalities in the squad but not one Brit. The players were obviously all there on merit, as the Gunners ran out 5-1 winners in that game.
So that was a whistle-stop tour through 150 years of FA history, but we still haven’t mentioned the Three Lions, the English national team, nor the “home of football,” Wembley, which owns the fantastic record of the most expensive grass. Ex-Chelsea chairman Ken Bates bought a spot of turf for £20,000 ($29,884) at auction in May 2000. It was the exact spot of turf where the ball landed for England´s controversial World Cup Final goal in 1966, as the founders of football won the Jules Rimet trophy on home soil, the only time in their history. Which leads us to our final and favourite record held by the man behind that strike – Geoff Hurst, who has scored the most goals in a World Cup Final, netting three that day. “They think it´s all over…it is now!”